KDFW Suspends Rebecca Aguilar After Controversial "Ambush"
Monday night, KDFW-Channel 4 ran a piece about 70-year-old James Walton, owner of Able Walton Machine & Welding in West Dallas, who, early Sunday morning, shot and killed a man trying to break into his business. What made Walton's story so extraordinary was that it was the second time he'd killed an intruder in three weeks. As it happens, Walton also lives at his place of business.
But today you will not find the Fox4 story on the station's Web site; there's a page for it, but no accompanying video. (Update: It's available here.) That's because Rebecca Aguilar's piece elicited a torrent of outrage, both on local blogs (chiefly FrontBurner but also elsewhere) and from viewers who began deluging the station with angry calls Monday night and much of the day yesterday. As Trey Garrison pointed out on D's blog:
This is her idea of journalism? Ambushing a 70-year-old man who has been through life-and-death twice in three weeks? "Are you a trigger happy kind of person? Is that what what you wanted to do? Shoot to kill?" Good Lord, I hate the people in this field.
Well, Trey need not worry about Aguilar, at least for a while: Unfair Park has confirmed that Aguilar -- who was just named one of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' Broadcast Journalists of the Year -- has been indefinitely suspended, based on concerns about how Aguilar treated Walton. She could not be reached for comment, but Unfair Park did leave Aguilar a message on her cell phone. (When we tried her number in the newsroom, another woman answered and said, "Rebecca isn't available today.") We also left a message for Maria Barrs, the station's news director. --Robert Wilonsky
Update: Tim Rogers at D magazine has posted a letter National Association of Hispanic Journalists president Rafael Olmeda sent to KDFW-Channel 4 vice president and station manager Kathy Saunders, in which Olmeda demands the station reinstate Aguilar immediately. He raises several points, chief among them: Aguilar didn't "ambush" Walton, because Walton told her earlier he'd be at the Academy where she interviewed him. He also wonders why others responsible for the newscast weren't similarly punished.